#179 Fruit Salad with Tea

I made this dessert to go after the duck with mint and sauce paloise as it was all very rich, the idea being that it would cleanse the palate and all that. Plus it’s a chance to use lots of the dark summer fruits now that they’re on the wane a bit. (That said, they are just coming through in the wild – when Butter and I went to Chatsworth House for a walk in the woods, we found wild raspberries, blackberries and strawberries.) I had mentioned making this fruit salad a few times, but people always opted for something else. This time, I just made it and didn’t tell anyone what they were having; a strategy I may use again. What seems to put folk off is the addition of the tea, of course, and think it’s just some weird post-war thing (I must admit, I thought that too), but Griggers says that it is delicious and that you would never guess the delicious sweet liquid is mainly Earl Grey.

You can any fruit you like and in any quantity, though it is best to stick to dark and red soft fruits. I stuck to what Jane suggests: 1 lb purple plums, stoned and chopped; 1 lb black cherries, stoned; ½ lb black grapes, halved; ½ lb strawberries, halved (or sliced if they are large) and 4 ounces of raspberries. Arrange the fruit in a glass bowl in layers, using sliced strawberries to line the bowl, and sprinkling sugar as you go. Cover and leave overnight. Next day, make a double strength brew of Earl Grey or orange pekoe tea and leave to cool. Pour it onto the bowl so that it almost comes to the top. Taste the tea and add more sugar if necessary. Decorate with mint leaves. There is no need to serve it with anything at all.

#179 Fruit Salad with Tea. Really, really good! A complete surprise and a taste sensation. The tea was light, sweet and delicious, and Jonty and Butters didn’t guess that there was tea in there. The fruit had gone soft and juicy, looking like little jewels. I didn’t think a fruit salad could be so good! I shall never make a fruit salad any other way again. 8/10

FYI: The Earl Grey referred to in Earl Grey tea is the second Earl Grey, who was a Prime Minister in the 1830s. He was sent some tea flavoured with bergamot oil as a gift from China, and so it was forever named after him

#118 Banana Tea Loaf

It was my turn to make a cake for the Evolutionary Biology department’s Wednesday Cake Day, and as there are many a non-Briton in the department I thought I’d do something very English – a tea loaf. Tea loaves are great for several reasons; they taste nice and are lovely and moist, you can make them in advance (in fact they taste nicer if you do leave them); you put butter on the sliced loaf, and they are very easy to make. This one is particularly easy as there is no creaming of butter or anything like that to do.

First, sieve 8 ounces of self-raising flour, ¾ level teaspoon of mixed spice, ½ a teaspoon of salt and 4 ounces of caster sugar into a mixing bowl. Chop 4 ounces of butter into small pieces and add it to the flour along with one tablespoon of honey, 4 ounces of sultanas, 3 ounces of glace cherries, 3 ounces of blanched almonds or walnuts (or a mixture). Now the wet ingredients: 1 pound of mashed ripe bananas, 2 eggs and the juice of a lemon. Once mixed together nicely, turn the mixture out into a buttered 9 inch loaf tin and bake of an hour at 180ºC and then half an hour at 160ºC. Allow to cool on a wire rack and store in an air-tight container.

#118 Banana Tea Loaf – 8.5/10. Marvellous! This is quite a hefty tea loaf and I didn’t think our wee group would get through it, but we made light work of it. The addition of the cherries and nuts made it a little Seventies-looking and I thought would make it overly rich, but it wasn’t the case. Very, very good – thinking about when I’ll make the next one!

#104 Wiltshire Lardy Cake

I’ve heard of the lardy cake and once saw someone making one on telly. I remember thinking that it looked pretty marvellous. For those of you that have never heard of lardy cakes, they’re basically a sweet sticky bun, but instead of enriching it with butter, lard is used; it’s layered along with sugar and mixed fruit through white bread dough. These ingredients meld together to make a moist, sticky and very rich teatime treat. It is quite possibly the least healthy thing I’ve ever cooked, and Jane Grigson reckons it’s on the “skinny side”!

Start off by making some bread dough using a pound of flour (follow this method if you don’t have your own recipe, but adjust amounts accordingly). Whilst you’re waiting for it to rise, measure out 6 ounces of lard and chop it up, 6 ounces of mixed dried fruit, 2 ounces of mixed peel and 6 ounces of granulated sugar. Once the dough had risen, and you’ve knocked it back, roll it out into a long oblong and spread the first two thirds of it with a third of the lard, fruit, peel and sugar. Fold this into thirds and press or tuck the ends under, give it quarter turn and roll out the dough again. Repeat this process two more times so that all the fruit and sugar are used up. Place the rolled up dough in a large tin that is oblong or square in shape and let the dough prove. Bake for 35-45 minutes at 220ºC. Turn it out onto a plate so that the sticky side is facing up and so that the lard can soak through the bread. Serve warm or cold.

#104 Wiltshire Lardy Cake – difficult to score this one; we tried it warm and it’s either 9/10 or 2/10. It’s tastes really sweet and is beautifully sticky with lovely plump juicy raisins, but has the bizarre savoury meatiness of the lard. I think if I were to cook it again, it would have to be even more skinny than Griggers’ measurements. However, once it was cool, it did taste less, er, meaty. Give it a go – easy and cheap to make, so I think I’ll go with a final score of 7/10.

High Tea, #52, 53

I got me mates Kirsty, Keith and Thom over for a quintessentially English high tea for Bank Holiday Monday, and made some nice cakes. I did ( #52) Sponge Cake I (of two) and (#53) Ginger Cake, as well as some biscuits – I still had some dough left in the freezer from when I made (#29) Elegant Sugar Thins way back in February. We had an ace laugh., but fell pretty sick. I’ve still got some of the ginger cake, and probably will do for a few more days! Kirsty and Keith got me some ace pressies – the best being the Chinese tea set with green gunpowder tea. There’s some recipes that have gunpowder tea in it too – I had no idea what it was (and still don’t – is it the same as normal green tea?) but will find out in due course.

Sponge Cake I was pretty easy and Greg and I enjoyed making it – I’m trying to get him baking, but there is some resistance. Simply whisk together 3 ounces of caster sugar and eggs until they are all whipped up and pale in colour; this takes a while even using an electric mixer. While you’re waiting sieve 3 ounces of plain flour along with a pinch of salt, and fold it into the eggy mixture carefully using a metal spoon. (Apparently the friction of the wooden spoon pops the bubbles). Divide the mixture between two 7 inch sandwich tins that have been greased and sugared and bake for – 12 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Keep an eye on it if you’ve got a fan oven like me though, it does keep the oven dry (I shall use the water in the bottom of the oven trick next time). Turn them onto a wire rack, sprinkle with sugar, and allow to cool. Fill with whipped cream and raspberry jam.

The ginger cake was easy too. It’s one of those dense treacly ones that sink in the centre and weigh a ton – at least in comparison to the sponge cake. Start by creaming 4 ounces of butter, then add 4 ounces of Demerara sugar and beat that in too. Next, mix in 2 eggs and 10 ounces of black treacle (it sounds like a lot of treacle, and it is!). Sieve together 8 ounces of flour and a generous teaspoon of ground ginger and mix into the butter and treacle. Then, weigh out 2 ounces each of sultanas and chopped preserved stem ginger and mix them in too. Finally warm ½ a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and 2 tbs of milk in the microwave and stir them in. Pour the mixture into a 7or 8 inch cake tin that has been lined with greaseproof paper and bake for an hour and a quarter or more depending on the size of the tin at 160 degrees Celsius. Grigson reckons it gets better if you leave it. We shall see…

FYI: ginger is both a stimulant and a muscle relaxant due to it’s antispasmodic properties. It also does you wonders if you’ve got the shits. Plus, it is an essential seasoning for whale meat, according to Larousse Gastromonique!

#52 Sponge Cake I – 6/10. A nice sponge cake, but I’m used to a Victoria sponge with butter in it, and I’m not used to this super-spongy, like actual sponge, texture. This may be down to my new oven of course drying the bugger out. However any cake is nice by me, especially when it’s filled with cream and jam. We shall have to see what sponge cake II is like!!

#53 Ginger Cake – 7/10. I preferred this cake, although it was more of a treacle cake, than a ginger one. It reminds me of a stickier version of Yorkshire parkin, which is usually dry and crumbly. It’s definitely a wintertime heavy stodge cake, rather than a summery light teatime cake. The addition of the ginger pieces and sultanas made it very moreish. I reckon I would be nice warmed up and served with vanilla or ginger ice cream.